Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori)

What is it?
It is a bug (bacterium) that sometimes infects the lining of the stomach and intestine. It often causes no problems but sometimes it may cause or contribute to the development of a particular type of stomach ulcer (peptic ulcer).

How do you get the infection?
It is not certain how H. pylori is transmitted. It is probably passed through contact with infected vomit or stools. If the H. pylori infection is not treated it may persist indefinitely.

How can you find out if you have H. pylori infection?
The infection can be detected in the blood by a finger prick or a blood sample from the vein. It can also be diagnosed from samples of stomach lining or mucus after endoscopy. There is also a breath test, which analyses your breath for H. pylori after you swallow a special test substance.

How do you treat H. pylori infection?
H. pylori is treated with combinations of various antibiotics and drugs to reduce the production of stomach acid. This combination of drugs eradicates the infection and promotes healing of the stomach lining. The treatment sometimes needs to be changed and repeated as H. pylori is developing resistance to certain combinations of drugs.

Both the antibiotics and the acid production suppressants can cause some unwanted side effects. The most commonly encountered ones are nausea, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort, headache and occasionally allergic reactions. Symptoms of allergy include rash, itching, fever, joint pains and mouth and throat swelling. If you suspect you are having an allergic reaction get medical help immediately as severe allergic reactions may be life threatening.

Further information

This article published on
28 November 2005

Next review date 11/1/2013


Areaof the body

Stomach and digestion

Male or female?


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